A thankful family: Wong, second from right, with the Walker family, from left, Landon, Eric, Natalie, Ariana and Christine
When 35-year-old Eric Walker was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2006, the life of the once energetic husband and father of three young children changed completely. He spent the next three years on dialysis waiting for a transplant. "I was hooked up to a machine for eight hours a night," says Walker. "Life was dialysis, and I was always tired."
Walker's oldest daughter, 11-year-old Ariana, saw how the illness was affecting her father and began taking an active role in his treatment and recovery. She often accompanied Walker to his appointments at the MGH, asking many questions of his caregivers. She quickly formed a friendship with Waichi Wong, MD, a nephrologist in the MGH Transplant Center.
Finally, in 2009, a donor was identified for Walker. Because that person was not a biological match, Walker and the donor decided to participate in the New England Program for Kidney Exchange, which helps match donors and recipients who are biologically incompatible with those who are. On Nov. 5, 2009, Walker received his new kidney from a compatible donor.
"I was up and about the next day," he says. "Three months later I had almost all of my energy back, and I was doing normal activities. I could keep up with the kids again. Basically, I got my life back."
This past winter, a very grateful Ariana wrote a letter thanking the MGH Transplant Center staff for caring for her father. "Since my daddy has been transplanted, we have been able to swim, camp, hike and do other fun family activities," she wrote. "Transplant was scary, but I knew he would make it through. I was so thankful that the doctors and nursing staff had taken such good care of him."
Upon reading the letter, Wong says she was touched and brought to tears. "A letter like this is one of the best rewards any physician can receive. It reminded me of why I do this job that I love and respect so much."
Walker and his family are thankful for each day, and he urges others to register as organ donors. "You never know who you're going to help."
Right now, more than 110,000 patients and their families are waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. Nearly 3,000 are waiting in Massachusetts alone. April is National Donate a Life Month, and to help address the need for organ donors, the MGH Transplant Center and New England Organ Bank will host an information table April 21 from 10 am to 2 pm in the Main Lobby. Passersby can sign up to become organ donors, and past donors and recipients will be on hand to discuss their experiences. To register to become an organ donor, stop by the table or visit